Art Talk

“It’s like summer,” I exclaimed as I sat down across from my cohort Camp at our usual table overlooking the sparkly waters of Gibsons harbour. Campbell, know as Camp in this town, was himself still dressed in woollens and a jacket while I was sporting a T-shirt and a pair of zany sunglasses borrowed from Clare.

“It’s a fake summer and we could still have a frost,” Camp said.

“You’re right Camp and where I grew up in Switzerland we waited for the three ice saints to pass before planting – Pankratius, Servarius and Bonifatius,’ followed by Cold Sophie.”

“Oh yeah, here you’re going medieval on me again. When do these three eh…Saints come to pass?”

“Somewhere in the middle of May,” I said.

“Old wives tales,” Camp said, “but not without a hint of truth. Anyway it’s cool standing in the book store all day long.”

“Can I interest you two in a ‘Blonde Logger’? Vicky offered.

“A blonde what?” Camp asked.

“It’s a new local Craft beer we’re starting to carry? You know, support the local economy.”

“Absolutely,’ I said, holding up two fingers in a victory sign.

Of course Vicky already knew our answer and had two pints at the ready.

We took a sip and smacked our lips in appreciation while Vicky gave us a conspirational wink.

Camp started right in on a topic that obviously bothered him. “Did you hear about that the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) mounted a show called ‘Bombhead’ about a month ago, exhibiting paintings depicting the horrendous, scary power of the atom bomb,” Camp asked.

I had to confess my ignorance.

Camp carried on: “But what was most noticeable about the exhibit was the absence of one of BC’s, and indeed Canada’s, most prolific artist and resident ‘Bombhead’. I’m talking about the iconic paintings, which make up Art Nuko.”

That rang a bell with me. “How could this happen?” I said. “I thought curators work in an objective and inclusive world, above the morass of politics and favouritism?”

“Well, think again. Art is not above politics. I believe one of Art’s function is to challenge the status quo and sometimes even shock the viewers out of their complacency as in ‘Bodies’, the exhibit showcasing real, plasticised human bodies or in the ‘Art Nuko’ depictions of the mushroom cloud over Buckingham palace, Disneyland or the Kreml, amongst many landmarks and locations including one over Vancouver called EXPLO 86. Disney sued over the painting of a fiery mushroom cloud over Disneyland with Mickey looking on. That of course made it even more popular than any other form of promotion could have achieved.”

“I remember the Art Nuko postcards. Kind of cartoonish and very colourful and blatantly explicit.”

“The originals were large paintings, like 3×4 feet, and I think they’re stored in a bunker somewhere in northern B.C. ,” Camp said.

“It’s like leaving Picasso out of a cubist exhibit.”

“Exactly. Guess what the curator said about Carl Chaplin’s, aka Dr. Nuko’s work. He called it ‘inferior…and he doesn’t deserve to be on the same wall as the other artist in the exhibit’.”

“That’s a pretty nasty judgment call for a curator,” I said shaking my head. “A little closer to home we have our own controversy involving art. Due to a scheduling change the annual children’s music concert coincided with the life drawing exhibit at the SC Arts Centre. Apparently there are still some parents who do not want their children to knew that we are all naked underneath our clothes. Words like ‘dismayed, insensitive, inappropriate, unfortunate’ were bandied about.”

“Yes, it’s hard to believe that this kind of prudish puritanism still exists in our midst. Just walk by any magazine rack at the grocery store and kids of all ages can see the sexualised and glamourized versions of body images that look nothing like their moms.”

“Would you agree to subsidise art and artist with your tax dollar?” I asked Camp, knowing the answer already.

“Of course, art is the soul of civilisation, without art there is no culture and if a society does not nurture and support its artists and their art, society fails and disintegrates into randomness without meaning and history.”

“Strong words indeed, but yes I agree that our artist use their talents, mediums and techniques to enrich our world.”

“From the earliest cave drawings to the latest graffiti, art is what makes us human and it is what endures over time,” Camp said rather passionately.  He took a large swig from his brew to douse the fire. “How could we live without music, dance, stories or pictures?  Art is nourishment for the soul and the mind, without it we shrivel up and atrophy; basically turn into technocratic zombies.”

“We’re very lucky here on the Sunshine Coast where Art is alive and well and dozens of creative people work and play,” I said and then cut to the chase: “So what is the difference between art and craft?” I asked, knowing that Camp would have an answer at the ready.

“It’s very simple,” Camp said. “Art inspires and provokes; craft decorates and is utilitarian.”

“Ok, so what about Craft beer? Why isn’t it called Art Beer?” I said.

“It’s where the twain shall meet,” Camp said with a lopsided grin. “It’s the art of making Craft beer.”

“How did you two like the ‘Blonde Logger’?” Vicky asked with a mischievous smile.

”I prefer the ‘Golden Goddess’ by the other brewery,” Camp quipped.

“It’s a silly name,” I said, “but decent beer.” We take a refill.”

“One ‘Blonde Logger’ and one ‘Golden Goddess’ coming up.”